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Thomas Higson was born on the 19th November 1887 at 45 South Short Street in Manchester, the son of Thomas and Mary Elizabeth Higson (nee Price). His parents were both originally from Cheshire and they married in St. George`s Church in Altrincham on the 12th May 1880. Thomas had three brothers and one sister;

• William Henry (1881)
• Annie Elizabeth (1885)
• Alfred (1889)
• Ernest (1891-1894)

The family home in 1891 was at 14 Moorhouse Street in Salford where Thomas senior was employed as a labourer. Sadly, Thomas` father, aged 35 years, passed away towards the end of 1891, his death registered in the fourth quarter of that year.

On the 16th February 1895 Thomas` mother remarried to Thomas Owen at St. Mary`s Church in Prestwich and the couple went on to have two daughters together, Mary Ellen (1899) and Catherine (1900). The Census of 1901 shows Thomas and his siblings, William Henry, Annie and Alfred, living with their mother and stepfather and two half-sisters at 1041 Tenth Street in Stretford, Manchester. Thomas` stepfather was a general labourer whilst Thomas himself was an errand boy working on the docks close to where they were living.

Thomas married Mary Armstrong, a young lady from Swinton on the 25th March 1911 at Ordsall Wesleyan Chapel and in the 1911 Census the newly married couple were living at 6 Higson Street in Salford. The record shows that Thomas was employed in a paper mill as a `back tenter` and Mary was a spinner in a cotton mill. A son, Harry, was born on the 9th September 1911 and the following year the couple had a daughter, Annie Elizabeth, who was born on the 5th December 1912 at 52 North Park Road in Salford.

Thomas enlisted not long after the outbreak of war, signing his attestation papers in Manchester on the 3rd September 1914. He was 26 years and 10 months old and prior to enlisting had been employed as a paper maker at Taylor`s Mill on Ordsall Lane in Salford. The Medical Officer noted that he was 5`7” tall and weighed 120lbs. Thomas passed his medical inspection and was issued with the service number 15666 and posted to the 10th Battalion Loyal North Lancashire Regiment.

Below are two pages from the Soldier`s Small Book that Thomas completed and signed;

In the March quarter of 1915 Thomas and Mary had another child, a second daughter, and they named her Mary.

Below, two photographs of Thomas, the one on the right is thought to have been taken not long after his enlistment and the one on the left was taken in an Eastbourne studio whilst he was in training with the 10th Battalion;

Thomas embarked for France with the 10th Battalion on the 31st July 1915, boarding the boat at Folkestone and then landing in Boulogne the following day. From around the middle of September 1915 until the beginning of July 1916 the 10th Battalion, coming under the Command of 112th Brigade in the 37th Division was in more or less the same area around Gommecourt, taking their turn in the trenches in and around Bienvillers, Hannescamps and Humbercamps, this area considered to be relatively quiet. At the beginning of the Somme battle, the Division remained for the most part, in Reserve.

By the 6th August 1916, the 112th Brigade had taken over the front line with the 10th Battalion in the trenches to the east of Bazentin-le-Petit;

Extract from the Battalion War Diary
6th August 1916 – Today the Battalion relieved the 16th Battalion Royal Scots in Mametz Wood.

7th August 1916 – The enemy fired several gas shells into the wood all around Battalion Headquarters.

8th August 1916 – Enemy`s artillery very active – at least 50 shells of varying calibre (4.2 & 5.9) were fired round Headquarters, we suffered 5 killed and 17 wounded.

9th August 1916 – Today the enemy has only shelled this wood intermittently during morning, we suffered no casualties.

Sadly, Thomas who was a stretcher bearer, died as a result of gas poisoning, his date of death recorded as 9th August 1916. His family posted the following information in the Manchester Evening News;

The following month, Thomas` widow Annie, received a letter from 15707 Sergeant James Arthur McLean, as well as expressing his deepest sympathy, the letter also intimated that Thomas may receive an award, possibly a D.C.M. or a Military Medal. Sgt. McLean stated that he had seen Thomas` name on an awards sheet, however, despite his statement, no award ever materialised.

Thomas was later buried in Mametz Wood with the other four soldiers who also perished in the same action, 15855 Corporal T. Case, 16796 Corporal J. Davison, 16346 Sergeant J. Nuttall and one unidentified soldier.

In November 1919, Annie Higson received a letter from the Imperial War Graves Commission confirming that Thomas, together with a number of other soldiers, had been re-interred in Flatiron Copse Cemetery at Mametz;

After the war Annie Higson received her late husband`s 1915 Star, British War and Victory Medals to which he was entitled and would also have received his Memorial Plaque and Scroll in recognition of his sacrifice.

Rank: Private
Service No: 15666
Date of Death: 09/08/1916
Regiment/Service: The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, ‘A’ Coy, 10th Bn.

**Many thanks to Harry Blackwell and his son Antony for supplying the photographs for this article. Harry is the only son of Annie Blackwell (nee Higson) mentioned in the Soldier`s book, Thomas Higson was his grandfather.

Author`s Note: 15707 Sergeant James Arthur McLean who appears to have been a good friend of Thomas Higson`s and who wrote to Annie Higson after the death of her husband, was born in Liverpool but at some point he moved to Ordsall Lane in Manchester. James enlisted in Manchester the day after Thomas, it is possible therefore that the pair may have known each other prior to enlisting. James served with the 10th Battalion until 1917 when he returned to England and was engaged in munitions work until being discharged to Class Z after the war.

Janet Davis
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